News Briefs 08 December 2017

Democratic Republic of Congo

DR Congo displacement crisis ‘worse than Middle East’

Conflict has forced 1.7 million people to flee their homes in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year, causing “a mega-crisis”, aid agencies say.

This means that for the second consecutive year, DR Congo is worst-affected by conflict displacement in the world, the agencies add.

DR Congo has been hit by years of instability, with rival militias fighting for control of territory.

The conflict has been worsened by the failure to hold elections last year.

“It’s a mega-crisis. The scale of people fleeing violence is off the charts, outpacing Syria, Yemen and Iraq,” the Norwegian Refugee Council’s DR Congo director, Ulrika Blom, said.


DR Congo: Hunger crisis, scarce funds could push Kasais to brink of catastrophe, UN agency warns

An acute hunger emergency ravaging Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s strife-torn Greater Kasai region could transform into a long-term disaster if additional resources are not made available urgently, the United Nations food relief agency warned Thursday.

“Without immediate donor support, many – particularly women and children – will die,” said Claude Jibidar, the head of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) operations in the DRC.

The eruption of violence in what used to be a poor but peaceful region has claimed countless lives and forced nearly 1.4 million people from their homes.

The crisis has also resulted in traditionally high malnutrition rates to sky-rocket and according to estimates, 3.2 million people are “desperately” short of food, the UN agency said.

UN News


‘Somalia’s Peacekeeping Mission Could Be Hurt by Cut In Force Size’

The force of 22,000 deployed a decade ago is set to lose 1,000 soldiers this year as part of a long-term plan to pull out of the country and hand security to the Somali army.

The African Union’s plan to trim its Somalia peacekeeping force (AMISOM) will hurt the mission unless extra equipment is found to offset the troop decrease, the mission’s leader told Reuters on Monday.

The force of 22,000 deployed a decade ago is set to lose 1,000 soldiers this year as part of a long-term plan to pull out of the country and hand security to the Somali army.

AMISOM is confronting the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab, whose ranks have been swelled by Islamic State fighters fleeing military setbacks in Libya and Syria.


Dozens of Ugandan troops withdrawn from Somalia duty

Uganda’s military has begun withdrawing dozens of its troops from a regional force in Somalia, a military official said on Thursday, marking the beginning of the end of an African Union team that has battled violent Islamic extremists.

Some 281 troops will leave Somalia by December 31, said Lt. Col. Deo Akiiki, deputy spokesperson for the Ugandan military.

Uganda was the first country to deploy troops to Somalia in 2007 to back a weak federal government in Mogadishu against an insurgency by the extremist group al-Shabaab, which is responsible for many deadly attacks in Somalia and elsewhere in the region.


Central African Republic

Aid worker killed in C.Africa amid violence

A Central African Republic aid worker was killed after gunman stormed his home, his family said Thursday, the latest death in a week of clashes in the country.

The 35-year-old man who worked for Italian humanitarian organisation Intersos, died at hospital following the shooting overnight Wednesday to Thursday in Kaga Bandoro, in the north of CAR.

The region is controlled by two armed groups which last week prevented the celebration of a national holiday.

At least 10 people had already been killed this week in a wave of incidents between rival armed groups, local officials and a UN source said on Thursday.

The bloodshed, which began on Sunday in the central town of Ippy, resulted from clashes between the mainly Muslim ex-Seleka rebels and Christian anti-Balaka militia.

The Citizen

Armed groups in central Africa using roadblocks as funding source

Roadblocks in war-torn areas of Central African Republic and Democratic Republic of Congo provide armed groups with millions of dollars in annual income, a report said on Wednesday.

A year-long study by the International Peace Information Service (IPIS), a Belgian research group, found 1 082 roadblocks in CAR and in the North and South Kivu provinces of eastern DRC alone.

Money extorted from road users nets armed groups around $8.2m annually, it estimated.

Roadblocks are a “key mechanism of conflict funding,” IPIS said in a statement.



Sudanese opposition calls for international probe into North Darfur violence

in North Darfur state between the government troops and the tribal militia of the Border Brigades Forces (BBF) led by Musa Hilal.

Within the framework of a weapons collection campaign, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) stormed Hilal headquarters in Mistiriyha after the killing of a commander of the government militia by the BBF on 27 November 2017.

As a result of the operation, Hilal, his sons and several senior BBF and tribal officials were arrested and transferred to Khartoum where they are held in the army detention centre. There were also reports of attacks human rights abuses against the civilians in Mistiriyha.

“The Sudan Call forces condemn the recent attacks by the government militias in Mistiriyha, and call for an immediate end of the war,” said the opposition alliance which gathers the political parties and armed groups including those of Darfur region.

Sudan Tribune

Militia chief arrest ‘dangerous moment’ for Sudan’s Darfur

By arresting Darfur’s powerful militia chief Musa Hilal, Khartoum has tightened its control over Sudan’s strife-torn region but analysts say it might open a new chapter of violence.

Hilal, a former aide to President Omar al-Bashir, was arrested last week by Sudan’s counter-insurgency forces near his hometown of Mustariaha in North Darfur state after fierce clashes that left several dead.

“This is a dangerous moment actually,” Magnus Taylor, Sudan analyst with the think-tank International Crisis Group, told AFP.

“By taking out Musa Hilal, they have pitched two different Darfuri Arab tribes against each other.”


South Sudan

UN says 1.25 million South Sudanese are 1 step from famine

Over 1.2 million people in war-torn South Sudan are one step away from famine — twice as many as at the same time last year — and in early 2018 half the country’s population will be reliant on emergency food aid, the U.N. humanitarian chief said Thursday.

Mark Lowcock told the U.N. Security Council that even though 2 million people have fled the country over the past four years, 7 million people inside the country — “almost two-thirds of the remaining population” — still need humanitarian aid.

“The next lean season beginning in March is likely to see famine conditions in several locations across the country,” Lowcock said. “We were able to reverse famine conditions this year — with significant resources and risks — and we must avoid a repeat of this.”

Washington Post

South Sudan: Security Council urged to do more to protect civilians, help end violence

With the conflict in South Sudan entering its fifth year, senior United Nations officials on Thursday expressed concern about the precarious security situation and bleak humanitarian conditions in the world’s youngest country.

“The people of South Sudan have simply suffered far too much for far too long and we must not take their resilience against incredible odds for granted,” Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told the Security Council today, about a week before the current mandate of UN peacekeeping force in the country expires.

Focusing his remarks on developments over the past year, Mr. Lacroix said the UN’s sustained efforts to effect change on the ground will require the continued support of the 15-member Council.

“Now, more than ever, I urge this Council to remain vigilant and exert more effort to condemn and stop the violence, protect civilians, and urgently facilitate a political settlement of the conflict,” he said.

UN News

Western Sahara

Swedish MPs urge government to speed up Western Sahara decolonization

Swedish MPs urged their government to seize the seized the opportunity of their mandate as member of the UN Security Council to speed up the decolonization of Western Sahara and allow the Sahrawi people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence. They also called to stop the planned plundering of the country’s natural resources, in violation of all relevant European and international resolutions.

The Swedish press published a letter signed by four Swedish MPs from different political persuasions urging the government to use its mandate as a member of the UN Security Council to accelerate the decolonization of Western Sahara and allow the Saharawi people to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination and independence.

As for the “difficult living conditions” in the Sahrawi refugee camps, the MPs stressed that international humanitarian aids, on which these refugees depend, were decreasing each year due to global migration flows and famine in the Horn of Africa.

Sahara Press Service

UN chief appoints new special representative for Western Sahara

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has appointed Colin Stewart of Canada as his new special representative for Western Sahara and head of the UN mission in the disputed territory.

Stewart succeeds Kim Bolduc of Canada, who has held the position since May 2014.

Stewart brings to the position demonstrated management and leadership, with more than 25 years of experience in peace and security and international affairs, said Guterres’ spokesman in a statement, on Friday.

Most recently, Stewart served as deputy head and chief of staff of the UN Office to the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He has also held appointments in a number of UN field missions.



UNAIDS PCB learns about the response to HIV in Swaziland

A delegation of the UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board (PCB) visited Swaziland from 14 to 16 November to get insight into the country’s national AIDS response. During the visit, the delegation met the Acting Prime Minister, the Minister of Health and other representatives of the government, civil society, the private sector and development partners. The meetings with the political leadership clearly displayed the commitment to the response from the highest political level, from the King down.

During the meetings, the close collaboration between the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and UNAIDS, based on UNAIDS’ role as the key link between the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Health and the broader political leadership, and with key civil society stakeholders, was noted. The critical role of the Joint Programme in preparing the recent concept note submitted for an application for financing by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria for the AIDS response in Swaziland was also discussed.



Mugabe-era finance minister out on bail in Zimbabwe

A Zimbabwean court on Thursday freed a Mugabe-era finance minister on bail ahead of his trial on corruption charges, laid following his arrest at the height of last month’s military takeover.

Ignatius Chombo, a close ally of former president Robert Mugabe who resigned on November 21, was the first Mugabe loyalist to be charged with a crime.

The Zimbabwe High Court freed him on $5 000-bail but ordered he report to police three times a day, surrender his passport and stay away from government offices and the central bank.

He had been in police custody for more than a fortnight.


IMF Ready to Assist Zimbabwean Authorities

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it will be sending its officials to Zimbabwe to help the country in its efforts to design policies to revive the economy.

The IMF says it will be working closely with the country which has been isolated and unable to borrow money from the IMF.

The IMF says it stands ready to assist the Zimbabwean authorities.

“The new president (Emmerson Mnangagwa) is putting in place his Cabinet and we stand ready to work closely with the country and the staff should help us to make progress in that direction.”

The regular staff visit to Harare in early December “will update our assessment of Zimbabwe’s fiscal position, foreign exchange developments and inquire about the new administration’s economic plans,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said.




Africa in General

SA Resumes Morocco Ties, Despite ANC’s Position On Western Sahara

South Africa and Morocco will resume diplomatic ties more than a decade after Morocco withdrew its ambassador from Pretoria, South African President Jacob Zuma said in a City Press interview published on Sunday.

Morocco recalled its ambassador from South Africa in 2004 after former South African president Thabo Mbeki recognized a breakaway region in the Western Sahara which Morocco claims as part of its territory.

“Morocco is an African nation and we need to have relations with them,” Zuma told City Press in the interview.

Zuma met Morocco’s King Mohammed last week on the sidelines of an African Union-European Union summit.

“They felt that even if we differ on the Western Sahara issues, the two countries should have a relationship,” Zuma said about Moroccan officials’ position at the meeting.

Huffington Post



UN condemns ‘heinous’ sale of migrants in Libya as slaves

he UN Security Council on Thursday condemned the sale of African migrants into slavery in Libya as “heinous abuses of human rights” that may constitute crimes against humanity.

A presidential statement approved by all 15 council members and read at an open meeting called for speedy investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice.

The statement comes after an emergency council meeting on November 28 held amid global outrage over CNN video showing African men being sold at a slave market in Libya.

The Security Council urged Libyan authorities and all UN member states to comply with their obligations under international law, including respect for the rights of migrants.


In Africa, LGBT rights activists worry about Trump impact

Gay rights activist Joseph Achille Tiedjou is worried every day that he will be harassed or arrested in Cameroon.

Defending LGBT rights can be dangerous in Africa, where many countries have laws against homosexuality. But in recent years activists have stepped out of the shadows, empowered by the support of the Obama administration and the international community.

Now many fear the Trump administration will undermine those gains, and that their exposure could make them more vulnerable if support fades.

“I have so many worries with the new administration,” the 32-year-old Tiedjou said, pointing out Trump’s ban on transgender people in the US military. “Obama was known to be very engaged. Hillary Clinton was a champion of LGBT rights and made many guarantees in addressing these issues specifically.”